The time has come! You have a band, you have been practicing hard for the last few months and have all your songs sounding perfect, what’s next? Besides getting gigs, a recording would be ideal. Recording either a demo, an EP or going for a LP!
The recording process is really cool. Well, for first timers it can be scary, it was for me a few years ago. Perhaps I was musically well prepared but just the simple fact of being in a studio environment, headphones with a click track and trying to play perfect made me a bit stressed. I was thinking too much instead of trusting all my hours of practice and feeling the groove. I think I have now learned to enjoy the recording situation way more and I am really looking forward to recording with my band in a couple of months.
The other night, while being in the studio where we are going to record I started to create a to-do list in my mind before going into the studio. If you wanna have a successful recording session, you have to fight for it and be prepared.
So this is my list – as a drummer, translated for you as a guitarist:
The Gear: Your guitar amp will be surrounded by at least 2 high quality mics, your sound will be captured at a 150%, whether it’s red hot or not-so. Perhaps your amp has a little problem that your ear cannot detect, well, the microphones will and you don’t want this in your recording.
So you definitely need to check out:
1. Your guitar or guitars. Having a couple of different guitars would be ideal to get different sounds, perhaps a track needs a more rock sound, or a more classic blues sound, having an extra guitar with a different pick-up configuration is never a bad thing. Once you have your guitars sorted, make sure your intonation is accurate and that every guitar stays in tune. You don’t want any type of noise from any of the controls or buzzing frets.
GET NEW STRINGS, this is crucial, you want your guitar to sound at its best and a new set of strings will help you achieve this. But please please, don’t put on the new strings 10 minutes before getting into the recording studio. The strings have to stretch and settle, I would say that putting new strings on a day or two before getting into the studio would be ideal.
2. Amplifier and speakers. Most studios have their own gear such as Amps and speakers, make sure to have a chat with the Studio managers and see what is available. Perhaps what they have has a better sound that your amp? Most studios offer you their gear for every session at no extra cost, in other words, what they charge includes the use of their gear, but ask them first.
If you love your amp sound, check it out… make sure it doesn’t have any noisy tubes. Check that everything functions as it should and play it everyday before getting into the studio in case something fails and needs to be fixed or replaced. Again, your amp will be mic’d and these mics will capture noises that perhaps you don’t notice while playing on stage or at rehearsal, so check out your speaker cab, open it up just to make sure your speaker mounting bolts, back panels, handles and whatever else are tight.
3. Guitar effects and accessories. Your best mates! What defines your sound! Make sure all your pedals are in good shape. This involves putting in new batteries or getting AC/DC converters that do not create any unwanted noise. Also cleaning your pedals is a must – mics will capture everything, even the scratching noise of a Wah pedal. Are your cables and inputs in pristine condition? They totally should!
The performance: Gear in perfect condition is very important but it is nothing if you are not prepared and ready to record. Unless you have your own home studio or you have an unlimited budget for recording you can take it slow and even go to practice in the studio. But most of us have to pay hundreds to get just a few hours of a recording session, so make it count.
Practice with your band as if you were in the studio already. Always try to get perfection in your playing. Practice extra hours at home on your own, practice and play every song at least a couple of times everyday. It won’t take you long and you will thank me once your recording is sounding amazingly well played.
Get a piece of paper and write down your parts, solos and ideas for every track, write down all the arrangements and have them all ready for when the time comes – this will be really helpful to nail things better.
It goes without saying, ALWAYS PRACTICE WITH A METRONOME.
Positive and open attitude: It doesn’t matter if this is your first or 10th time in a professional recording studio, always have a good attitude about what you do and also about what others suggest you might do.
A recording engineer has experience, he or she has listened to many bands, many great, good and not so good guitarists. If someone suggests you do something, try it out; they are doing it to help you achieve a better sound. PLEASE DO NOT be offended if he or she tells you to change something with your playing or your gear, it is always worth trying every suggestion out! The results can be way better than what you expected.
Have fun. Recording is an amazing experience that will be captured on audio for the rest of your life, make it sound nice. Be happy while recording it, create a nice vibe between you, your playing, your sound, the studio and of course, your band. If you are positive and happy, your music will be influenced and will be heard like that!
I know recording can be stressful, you are paying money and spending a whole day in a room but try to love it! Experiences like this don’t happen everyday.
These are the things I always keep in mind and of course I do before getting into the studio. You should start preparing maybe a month or two before getting into the studio. You won’t regret it!
Hope this helps and don’t forget to let us know about your recording experiences. Any questions or problems you would like to share? Please comment them out!
Learn more about Luis Tovar on his Google profile.
Excellent tips and wonderful ideas you have given about sound recording in a studio.